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from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with jeffrey osborne. he is out with a new project called "a time for love." it features an impressive roster of guest artists. we are glad you have joined us for conversation with jeffrey osborne, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: please welcome jeffrey osborne to this program. he has just released a terrific collection of standards called "a time for love." he is also part of an all-star tour featuring peabo bryson and others, not a bad line up. how is the door going? >> it is going good. it is one of those stores that
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people are flocking out to sea. you. peabo and freddie with all their hits. we have to cut the showdown, is still long. [laughter] tavis: i have not seen it yet, but i am anxious to see it. what have you decided to cut your hits down to? >> i have to dig deep and go back to a lot of l.t.d. i have more l.t.d. songs and my solo songs, but i try to mix it up pretty good. tavis: can you hear the people in the audience screaming for other songs grew to more cracks they always want something i know i cannot do. [laughter] tavis: because of time? it is not because you cannot do it because of the instrument. there are some artists that as
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they age, at the pipes just not what they used to be. but every time i hear you, you are in as good boys now, to my year, as you were some years ago. -- as good voice now as you were years ago. to what do you attribute that? >> i take care of my voice. vocal hygiene is important. i tried to use steam, which takes the inflammation of the vocal cords. i try to gargle with some organic stuff. it tastes and nasty, but it works wonders. and i try to stay healthy and work out four or five days a week. tavis: i can see that. i will come back to those l.t.d. days in just a moment. i want to talk about the new project, "a time for love." what does your offering of a
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jazz album say to us about what jeffrey osborne thinks about the state of r&b? >> it says a lot. i love jazz. i grew up the youngest of 12. i had to wait my turn in line to listen to what i wanted to listen to. back then i was listening to motown. my sisters were listening to ella and sara. that is really my roots. i grew up listening to that. so i feel comfortable there. but also, getting back to the state of r&b, it is kind of like diminished. i see every other john roll music getting stronger, and r&b kind of diminishing -- every other genre of music getting stronger. country is huge. gospel is bigger than r&b.
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somewhere along the line, r&b just kind of vanished. maybe you can a treated to there are not as many singers as there were back in the day. distinct voices, too. tavis: to what you attribute the dearth of those artists, and what happens in the culture, certainly in african-american culture, what happens in our culture that has allowed for the diminishing number of those kinds of artistic voices? >> i think we are into the hippest thing going. we are into the next hip thing. we sometimes forget about what happened before us. i think technology came in, and there was this age of sampling. you got these young artist now and they are sampling everything instead of learning how to play. i think the artistic value has gone down because people are not really into the art as much as
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they used to be. they are into technology. so it has suffered a lot. tavis: what is the worst case scenario for what happens to the culture, to the music, if that development is not arrested somewhere along the way? if r&b does not get resuscitated. >> the worst case scenario is, you should do a jazz record. [laughter] but yes, it has gotten to the point where there are so many great veteran artists, we do push records out, but there is no outlet for it anymore. they will play our old music, but they will not play anything new that we deliver. at this point, for me, is like, let's try to broaden the audience and reach more people. tavis: when you are driving in your car around town or around
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the country and you turn on any local radio and you hear jeffrey osborne, you hear l.t.d., they play at all the time. when you are driving around and you hear your old stuff, but don't hear the stuff you just put out a year ago, as an artist, how does that make you feel when that player old stuff but will play your new stuff? >> it always makes you feel good regardless. as an artist, it makes you feel like maybe you are a veteran artist. you have gotten to the. -- when i was growing up and when i was in l.t.d., i was still listening to sarah and ella. they were slowly declining their play on radio. you get to a point where you mature, and the young artists seem to get all the -- the young
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people are the ones that go out and buy it, so they get most of the air play. radio just seems to kind of move away from veteran artists. we can try to sell out and try to do the hip-hop thing, but that hurts us also. all you can do is just live with it and be happy, for one thing, that they are playing your old stuff. tavis: as long as you are who you are, there is an audience that appreciates that. this tour you are on now, people want to hear that stuff. >> and they do not get a chance to hear that anymore. it is kind of nice to go out on that tour and walk out and see a full house. tavis: your real, hard-core fans know that you started out as a drummer before you move to that trumpet and picked up a microphone. how did being a drummer all those years influence your
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artistry as a singer? i always laugh when i think about you. the drummer is literally always in the back. so you went from all the way in the back to all the way to the front. how did being a drummer influence your vocal gift when you got to the front? >> it really helped as far as being a drummer, you have this rhythmic thing. it helps in phrasing. it helps in just interpreting a song and making sure that the phrasing is right and you fit within the pulse of what is going on. from that perspective, it really helped. there have been a lot of drummers that have been great .ead singers barr the record company is like, you
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have a hit here, a love ballad. you are going to have to get out front and sing. i was comfortable being back there and all i wanted to do it by hand was this. i was a drummer. i worked with a couple of people and they helped me reach the last person in the last seat. did you have reached everybody. you just learn to bring everybody in. tavis: just a little bit more than a drummer. i am going to put you on the spot here. i would not embarrass you on national tv but i know you can handle this. he said a moment ago that a lot of drummers have become hinklsi. i thought of two or three right quick. i would run it -- i will wonder if you would run off a few of them, who started in the back
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and went to the front. the first one i thought of as phil collins. >> yes, and you have teddy pender grass, marvin gaye. >> that is enough, you can stop. you cannot do much better than that. drummer.was a great numbe tavis: back to this project, "a time for love." i love george, i don't want to call him old. you are a longtime friend, george do. -- and george duke. >> this was my first solo
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record. the record company was like, we should move on and try this and that. it has been awhile since we worked together. probably look 1987, that was the last time we did a record together. doing this kind of project, i would not want anyone else but george. i know that george is just an incredible producer, a musician. he is kinda scary because he has perfect pitch. he is scary to be around. but musically, i knew that if i had george there, all i had to do was just walking in and sing, and he would surround my voice with just incredible music. it was wonderful to get back together with george. i have been talking about doing this record for years. when you sign with companies,
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most of them said they want original tunes. now i am at the. in a career where it is starting to wind down a little bit, so i can do what i want to now. tavis: i talked to a number of artists on this program who have had great success doing the standards. rod stewart, glenn frye, michael mcdonnell. they are selling records like crazy. >> the only problem i had was trying to figure out what songs to do. some of the great classics. tavis: that leads me to my next question. how did you figure out these 12? >> we kind of weeded out a lot of other ones. i went to songs that i have always liked, songs from my favorite artist like nat king cole. i love everything he did. when i fall in love and nature
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boy. i sat down at the piano, sang it with george, what ever we felt real comfortable with, we decided, let's go with that. tavis: is there anything in your voice if you felt was compromised by doing this now as opposed to 20 years ago? >> i think it was better to do it now, because i have kind of matured. if i had done his 15 years ago, i would have oversang every song. i would try to do every lick i possibly could have done on every track. at this point, i just sang the melody. i go back to what my father used to always tell me. he said boy, if you cannot touch me with a whole note, you cannot sing. [laughter] i always reflect back to that.
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tavis: your daddy is still in your head. it has been great talking to you. you keep directing where i want to go. i am just following you. i want to talk about your dad. your dad was a trumpet player. tell me about your dad and influence he had on you. >> he was pretty special. he was an incredible trumpet player. i am the youngest of 12, so no one else played trumpet. it was like, you are going to play trumpet. [laughter] i hated it. it is a beautiful instrument, but that armature you have, a little girls would be like, we are going to talk to somebody else. i was not seriously into it. my father passed when i was 13 and that is when i pushed it off to the side, but he was an
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incredible trumpet player. i used to fall asleep outside his room just listening to him play. he would always want to play with basie and ellington. he said he could not afford to take care of 12 kids and be a member of an orchestra. they are getting paid a salary to be part of that 40-piece orchestra. so he never really went after his dream. he worked a couple of jobs and would go out and play. my mother encouraged me, don't sit around like your dad and not go after your dreams. tavis: you are 13 and your dad dies. how did that -- how did your mom use that to motivate you?
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>> my mom waited until i was about 17 or 18 to really tell me that she felt had a gift to go after. she tried to keep me grounded. i had a lot of other brothers and sisters that were great musicians. my brother billy was in l.t.d. my brother cleo was an incredible jazz singer. my mother just can grounded. she would chaperon me. i started singing in nightclubs at 13. she always kept me grounded. i got my first big job when i was 15. i went to a nightclub in ays.idence to see the o.j.' they had a drummer who was horrible. he was falling asleep between songs. but that is another discussion. tavis: let's talk about that.
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how does the drummer fall asleep, jeffrey? >> back then, in jazz, the prevalent drug was heroin. so he was lit up, and he was falling asleep between songs. the club owner let me meat eddie. -- let me meet eddie. i went up and auditioned, and i got the job, and i was 15 years old. that was like to highlight for me. my mother said, you are not going anywhere. [laughter] my mother always encouraged me to go after things. she said i think you have the talent, so just go.
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when l.t.d. came to town, it was the same scenario. marijuana was a forbidden thing in 1970. tavis: the moral of the story is, you owe your career to a bunch of drug heads. [laughter] we want to thank you all for the career of jeffrey osborne. >> it is funny how the vehicle for me -- drums and drugs. tavis: i love the o'jays to this day. what did that do for your confidence at 15 to play with them?
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they were selling records. >> it was incredible. it made me feel like -- you always have that dream of what it would be like to be on stage. you always wanted to sing with the temps and sing with smokey. to get the opportunity to play with them and be accepted and for them to tell me, we wish we could take you with us, but you are young. that is the greatest feeling in the world. i had still so much to learn at 15, but that gives you a lot of confidence. tavis: you mentioned the l.t.d. days. tell me about the l.t.d. days. that is some of the best music ever made.
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>> that was incredible for me. that is really what may be who i am. gave me the opportunity to learn and grow as a songwriter, you learn how to put music together. you have songs you are writing and you have a horn players to orchestrate. you learn so much. they were a great live group. a lot of groups did not want us in front of them. it was a great crowd to grow up with. the problem with a lot of large groups is, i had a record company wanting to do a solo album, i had all these things coming at me. you get to a point where you want to grow and you have to get out of that situation or you get stifled.
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that happen to a lot of guys in those big groups. tavis: when digino was time to make the break? >> i think it was around 1978. i was getting offers of people to write songs for them. that was kind of like off limits. so it was kind of crazy. i stayed on for like two years longer than i wanted to. i wanted to try to make the transition smooth for everybody. all due the next tour, i will do the next record. it went on and on and i finally decided to make the move. tavis: were there ever days after you leave the safety and security of being in a group and not being responsible for everything, were there ever days when you thought, did i make the right decision here?
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>> i was very skeptical at first. you leave something that is successful and you venture off into the unknown, you really don't know what is going to work and what is not going to work. what helped me tremendously was that i was a songwriter. i did not have to look to anyone else for my identity. that is what happened to a lot of people who left those groups, they had to look for another songwriter. that helped tremendously. it took awhile to feel secure. i was used to being one of 10 people, and my name was never out front. i was never like the leader of the group. it took a minute to associate the name with the voice. people knew the voice but they did not know the name. with the first record, it happened. again, that is having somebody
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like george duke. tavis: is there anybody who has sung the national anthem more times than you have at the lakers games? that is a random question, i admit. >> i don't think anyone has on the national anthem as much as meat, period. -- as much as me, period. i have done it for so many. i think i sang the anthem for every mike tyson fight. i have sang it a lot of times. it is interesting how superstitious people can be. before i knew it, i started with the lakers in 1979. it was like i have done it 30
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times, you have to come back. tavis: you are a championship artists. the new project from jeffrey osborne is called "a time for love." finally, a jazz record from jeffrey osborne. if you or a jazz lover, you want to add this to your collection. that is our show for tonight. thanks for watching. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with david o. russell on his latest, silver linings playbook.
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that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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